The future of manufacturing will be underpinned by two elements: digital technologies and collaboration. The industrial metaverse is the epitome of these elements, using extended reality to blend the physical and digital worlds to transform how businesses design, manufacture, and interact with objects.
This report presents a coherent summary of established knowledge from academia and practice on the drivers, risks, enablers, and barriers of the industrial metaverse for manufacturing through a systematic literature review. These aspects are explored at three levels of granularity: the individual, the firm, and the manufacturing ecosystem.
As a result of this work, the InterAct funded team has also conceptualised a prototype for an industrial metaverse implementation using a case of cocoa manufacturing.
This research was conducted by Dr. Nikolai Kazantsev, Dr. Bethan Moncur, Russell Goh, Professor Chander Velu(IfM, University of Cambridge). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].
For further discussions or to propose potential applications/collaborations, please contact Nikolai Kazantsev.
I recently attended a workshop on international perceptions and megatrends in manufacturing. Hosted by Aston Business School, it featured various experts and practitioners sharing their insights on the current manufacturing landscape and the strategies required for its positive future. The research team (Dr Guendalina Anzolin, Dr Jennifer Castañeda–Navarrete, Dr Dalila Ribaudo and Yanan Wang) included researchers and practitioners from Aston Business School and the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge. The research is funded by InterAct, a network led by the Economic and Social Research Council and Made Smarter UK.
Initial findings from the research
During the event, the project team shared some initial findings from their research. This has involved a systematic review and expert validation, with a specific focus on how manufacturing is discussed in contexts where digital technologies have been adopted, and widely addressed at the policy level. The analysis encompasses the following countries: Canada, Germany, Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The results emphasised the different connotations manufacturing holds for various demographics and how manufacturing, ranging from robotics to engineering systems, varies in definition based on individual perspectives. There is an observed dichotomy in public perception of the sector, ranging from antiquated views of dirty factories to a modern, automated image. Consequently, while the industry still captures public interest and is deemed essential, there are disparities between generations in understanding its significance.
Furthermore, the research has found familiarity with the sector positively influences opinions, indicating a gap between the familiar and unfamiliar regarding job quality perceptions. The discussion also emphasised the shift of countries from manufacturing to services and explored the importance of a robust manufacturing base for sustainable growth. Gender dimensions and the impact of COVID-19 perceptions on the industry’s role in innovation were also explored.
The external speakers included Professor Fumi Kitagawa (City-REDI), Ollie Burrows (West Midlands Growth Company), Stewart McKinlay (National Manufacturing Institute Scotland), and Alain Dilworth (Made Smarter UK) shared initiatives and challenges faced in different regions. From the UK’s creation of the ‘Catapult’ technology and innovation centres focusing on manufacturing-related R&D and emerging technologies, modelled on the German Fraunhofer Institutes, to regional strategies focusing on net-zero, automotive innovation, and the intersection of technology with manufacturing, various initiatives are driving growth and sustainability.
Insights highlighted a stark disparity between perception and reality, with challenges like labour shortages, health and safety concerns, and the need for upskilling the workforce. Additionally, a Senior Policy Manager at Make UK, highlighted upcoming narratives for the manufacturing sector, especially in the context of elections and economic resilience. Emphasizing net-zero goals and a push to increase manufacturing’s GDP contribution. There was consensus that an overarching industrial strategy is needed focusing on skills, supply chains, and technological advancements.
The workshop offered a comprehensive view of global manufacturing perceptions, challenges, and the need for a strategic shift in how we perceive and position the sector. Addressing misconceptions, advocating for skills development, and aligning policy with industrial strategies emerged as critical themes for the future of manufacturing. As industries navigate an ever-evolving landscape, bridging the gap between perception and reality will be pivotal for sustained growth and innovation in manufacturing worldwide.
The UK faces being left behind in the electric vehicle revolution, economists have today warned.
Researchers have called for urgent policy intervention and a focused effort to ensure the UK’s automotive industry remains a critical pillar of the British economy.
The report, entitled Powering the Future: Aligning Economic Policy for Automotive Sector Resilience in the face of Critical Material Challenges, offers a comprehensive analysis of the UK’s EV industry.
Researchers Jun Du and Oleksandr Shepotylo, from Aston University’s Centre for Business Prosperity, found that the UK is in a weak position to capitalise on the EV revolution and immediate market opportunities – and such is the pace of change, the opportunity won’t wait for policy makers to catch up.
The UK is currently heavily exposed through its critical dependency on battery imports, with imports exceeding exports by 10.5 times.
Germany continues to lead the global market in the value of EV exports, whilst China now leads in terms of the number of EVs exported.
The UK’s position is further weakened by the resilience of the EU as a formidable EV market. The EU has made efforts to tackle the dependency on China for its battery imports by investing in production capacity in areas such as Poland, coupled with EU interventions such as the Green Deal which provides a simplified regulatory environment, faster access to funding and skills and supply chain development.
Moreover, the UK relies on sourcing materials from the rest of the world outside of the EU, coupled with higher prices making compliance with regulations more challenging.
The report warns that the UK risks a continued critical dependency on battery imports while its EU competitors are reducing the risk.
Strikingly the report shines a light on the level of Government intervention in the EU, US and China, all have coherent industrial strategy that capitalise on the shift to Net Zero, whilst the UK does not, favouring a reactive sticking plaster approach, such as the short term extension of Rules of Origin deadline with the EU. Whilst this provides respite to the UK the risk is that the gap with its competitors widens.
Jun Du, Professor of Economics at Aston Business School, said: “Cultivating a resilient and competitive UK automotive industry demands policy ideas that align with the ever-evolving dynamics of the global electric vehicle market.
“Our research highlights the weakness of the UK’s current position and outlines the strategic interventions urgently needed to fortify the UK’s interests and navigate the transformative landscape of the electric vehicle revolution.
“The implementation of these recommendations can effectively cement the UK’s leadership position in the realm of electric mobility, ensuring enduring growth, competitiveness, and innovation.”
The report outlines a three-point plan for automotive sector resilience. This crucial roadmap sets out the steps the UK must take to fortify its presence in the global EV market.
The recommendations strategically target global opportunities in the EV revolution, advocate for the optimisation of trade policy, call for strategic investments in EV battery production, emphasise the imperative of crafting a future-ready industrial strategy, and underscore the significance of continuous monitoring of global value chains.
InterAct researchers from the University of Sheffield based ‘Future of the Economy’ team led by Professor Vania Sena hosted the first of their Discovery Day events at the AMRC Factory 2050 on 16th November, 2023. Opened in April 2017, the venue is a fully reconfigurable assembly and component manufacturing facility for collaborative research, capable of rapidly switching production between different high-value components and one-off parts for prototyping and research and development.
This half-day workshop offered InterAct stakeholders from across the manufacturing and industrial digital technology sectors a chance to be introduced to part of the core mission of the Future of the Economy workstream.
The Discovery Day delved into the significance of advanced manufacturing zones, particularly in regional development, primarily focusing on South Yorkshire. The practical implications of these zones, the decision making behind them, and the strategy used was examined in detail by guest speaker Joseph Quinn of the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA). He shed light on the transformative potential of these zones in terms of job creation, economic growth, and innovation.
Joseph Quinn presents on the work of the SYMCA
Professor Sena explained to participants the initial findings of the team’s research and understanding of the multifaceted impacts of investment zones on the future of the UK economy. They then had the chance to pose questions understand the challenges and opportunities in advanced manufacturing, a theme intrinsically linked to the economic landscape and outlook.
Following this session, attendees were invited to take part in a tour of the exciting and innovative facilities within the AMRC Factory 2050. Putting into context the overall mission of InterAct to help facilitate the introduction of new industrial digital technology into manufacturing, visitors were able to engage with a variety of cutting edge technologies with input from the AMRC staff.
Attendees examine one of the industrial technologies on display at the Factory 2050
Following on from our successful Sandpit event at Loughborough University, InterAct has funded five projects examining a range of topics concerning the manufacturing sector.
Developing a strategy that will shape the rebranding of UK digital manufacturing
Dr. Karl Warner – University of Glasgow
Dr. Nicola Bailey – King’s College London
Dr. Imtiaz Khan – Cardiff Metropolitan University
Dr. Anna Chatzimichali – University of Bath
Malek El-Qallali – University of Bath
Dr. Anastasia Kulichyova – Queens University Belfast
This project aims to highlight the most probable future scenarios for rebranding manufacturing that can help stakeholders attract the next generation of young talent towards a career in UK digital manufacturing by 2040. This is rooted in the ambition of making the future of the sector a place that attracts, includes, and supports young talent from diverse backgrounds and mindsets.
Recent research conducted by Make UK – a UK manufacturers’ association – found that only 2% of the average UK manufacturing workforce is below 30 years old. These statistics are concerning considering current labour market inactivity rates and the shrinking UK population.
These statistics have triggered further research, including a large-scale InterAct Perceptions of Manufacturing survey that investigated UK public perceptions of the manufacturing industry and its place of work. Based on UK-wide survey of 2,000 people, a powerful message coming out of the results is that younger generations identify UK manufacturing as a less desirable brand, with many people being primarily uncertain about manufacturing employment prospects.
Using a variety of innovative methods to gather insights on potential rebranding opportunities from employers, educators, industry experts, policymakers and young people, this project intends to co-create the most probable future scenarios that can help stakeholders attract the next generation of young talent. This will enable the creation of a cross-generational map of peoples’ experiences of UK manufacturing – both past and present – that visualises potential opportunities for attracting the next generation of young talent towards a career in UK digital manufacturing.
Informing empathy-led change management: Creating a measurable readiness health plan for the adoption of digital technologies in manufacturing
Dr. Mersha Aftab – Birmingham City University
Dr. Mey Goh – Loughborough University
Dr. Iryna Yevseyeva – De Montfort University
The project aims to improve the success of technology adoption in manufacturing organisations using an empathy-led approach to create a measurable readiness health plan for change management.
Whilst the value of digital technologies is well accepted, the UK is not adopting these technologies as quickly as our competitors. The Made Smarter Innovation People-Led Digitalisation (PLD) Centre has identified this as a challenge. They note that digitalisation tools are abundantly available and advancing at pace, but adoption rates could be higher, and it is not always clear what values these tools bring to an individual worker.
When trying to infer the adoption of technology by a person, it is important to consider what values they attach to the use of that technology. The difficulty is that most values are intrinsic, tacit, and non-transferable.
The Empathy-Led Change Management team aims to develop an initial version of a digital toolkit for businesses. This toolkit will be able to map and demonstrate the readiness level of the workforce in a company in real time. It will also support management to introduce the right strategies of people-led change at the right point of readiness, so the adoption is bespoke and ‘made to measure’.
Manufacturing a better future – exploring inclusive digital manufacturing
Dr. Marisa Smith – University of Strathclyde
Professor Nigel Caldwell – London Metropolitan University
Dr. Eun Sun Godwin – University of Wolverhampton
Dr. John Oyekan – University of York
Dr. Sebastian Pattinson – University of Cambridge
This project is investigating how the use of digital tools can enable a more inclusive workforce in manufacturing. They will be focusing specifically on demonstrating how to engage disabled people to participate in digital design processes. The outcomes will include insight into removing barriers to entry for currently excluded groups to the manufacturing workforce.
The current focus in manufacturing policy and practice on equality and diversity has been limited to gender and ethnic diversity. Although according to Scope almost a quarter (23%) of the UK working age population are disabled, the industry has lacked a real interest in the inclusion of disabled people.
The employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people has also remained consistently high, at around 30% for the past 10 years, with a pay gap of almost 20% for disabled workers compared with non-disabled workers according to the Together Trust.
In order to counteract and overcome these challenges, the overall objectives of the project are:
To collaborate disabled people to understand how they can participate in digitalisation and manufacturing:
To gain a first-hand account of disabled people on manufacturing and working within the manufacturing ecosystem.
To understand technology developers’ expert view on technical constraints and adjustments with current digital technologies that need to be considered for accessibility of disabled people.
To explore how disabled people interact with AI interfaces and examine how the technology can be adapted to address any design challenges.
To build on the current InterAct 2040 scenarios by providing additional scenarios on inclusive manufacturing embracing disabled people through inclusive digital solutions.
To show small manufacturing non-adopters of digital tools the benefits and relative ease of adopting inclusive digital tools.
The project will provide greater understanding of how the digital divide, as well as the disability employment gap, can be narrowed through the inclusion of disabled people into the manufacturing ecosystem.
Community co-created distributed manufacturing platform (COCODISMAN)
Dr. Elaine Conway – Loughborough University
Atanu Chaudhuri – Durham University
Dr. Usman Adeel – Teesside University
Jay Daniel – University of Derby
The aim of this project is to develop a blueprint for a co-created, distributed, community-based manufacturing platform in the UK with a business model to support its financial viability and scalability.
In many UK communities, there is apathy towards manufacturing, a digital skills divide, unemployment challenges and low engagement with disadvantaged or hard to reach groups. Equally, local manufacturers need to adopt digital technologies to remain competitive but face severe skills shortages.
Recognising these issues, the team behind COCODISMAN will be carrying out a scoping exercise to discover what community needs exist for digital skilling and local manufacturing. Using this information, they will create a digital platform which matches the needs with deliverables as they currently exist in the community. The ultimate aim of this process is to provide the link between community needs for products and skills and local manufacturing facilities with excess capacity.
The project objectives are to:
Understand the challenges which local communities face in getting objects repaired and delivered at reasonable cost, their perceptions about manufacturing as a career choice and acquiring the necessary skills to gain employment in the manufacturing sector.
Understand the challenges faced by local manufacturers in upskilling their employees while embracing digital transformation and in attracting a future workforce to manufacturing.
Understand the challenges faced by local councils in creating meaningful learning and employment opportunities for young people to enter the manufacturing sector and in supporting the elderly population in accessing manufactured goods and services.
Assess the potential of a digital platform in changing the perception of the community towards manufacturing, improving skills, reducing the digital divide and improving youth engagement in manufacturing.
Support sustainable and localized production.
The COCODISMAN platform developed and rolled out at the end of the project will form the basis for greater collaboration by the researchers involved with partners such as local county councils, local manufacturers, and industry representative organisations.
The role of consumers in driving UK manufacturing’s digital transformation
Professor Ana Isabel Canhoto – University of Sussex
Dr. Maren Schneider – Anglia Ruskin University
Dr. Ahmed Beltagui – Aston University
Ramin Behbehani – Brunel University London
Niraj Kumar – University of Essex
The aim of this research is to identify the factors that lead consumers to adopt new Everything as a Service (XaaS) models of consumption, and drive the adoption of digitally enabled, distributed models of manufacturing.
XaaS is a business model for consumers to pay for access to a product’s benefits rather than own it outright. XaaS may take the form of acquiring a product whose performance is remotely monitored by the manufacturer. Parts are replaced or instructions issued to the consumer, as needed, through a maintenance contract, to extend the useful life of the product, a XaaS ‘stewardship-model’.
Alternatively, XaaS may take the form of acquisition of a service, with the manufacturer owing the machine and monitoring its maintenance needs, remotely, intervening when needed to ensure continued provision of the service, a XaaS ‘usership-model’ of consumption.
There are numerous benefits to XaaS including reducing manufacturers’ incentives to make products obsolete in order to generate additional sales, reducing electronic waste, increasing consumer retention, increasing consumers’ access to the latest technology, improving the energy efficiency of household appliances.
The project will attempt to achieve the following objectives:
Analyse viable XaaS models for washing machines.
Identify the factors influencing consumers’ acceptance of XaaS for washing machines.
Test the impact of those key factors in driving demand for washing machines under the stewardship vs. usership models.
Develop recommendations to support the development and implementation of XaaS in UK manufacturing.
If you’re interested in getting involved with any of these projects, you can contact the project team or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
InterAct representatives including Co-director, Professor Jillian MacBryde, were pleased to support the Women in Manufacturing initiative’s ‘Changing Perceptions’ conference on 31st October 2023.
Hosted at the state-of-the-art Manufacturing Technology Centre facility in Coventry, the event attracted industry leaders, policymakers, and aspiring professionals from across the country to share ideas and discuss the biggest challenges to female participation in manufacturing today.
The ‘Changing Perceptions’ conference was organised by the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge (IfM) and Innovate UK’s Made Smarter Innovation programme, with support from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, InterAct and Lloyds Banking Group. It marks a major milestone in the activities put together by the Women in Manufacturing Initiative, a group dedicated to improving diversity and representation within the manufacturing sector.
Although women represent almost half of the labour force in the United Kingdom, they account for only 26% of all workers in the manufacturing sector.
Gender norms and stereotypes still segregate women and men into different occupations and economic activities. Women are also underrepresented in leadership positions, and this lack of diversity influences decision-making and firm performance.
The morning sessions of the conference sought to address some of the influencing factors behind these issues looking at: ‘Perceptions of Manufacturing: International Perspectives’, ‘How to Network Effectively’ and a panel discussion on ‘Promoting Diversity in the UK Manufacturing Sector’.
Throughout the afternoon, a series of workshops delved into various aspects of women’s roles in manufacturing, covering topics such as career advancement, mentorship programs, and strategies to overcome gender bias. Attendees had the opportunity to engage with seasoned professionals, share experiences, and gain insights into navigating the challenges unique to women in the manufacturing workforce.
Speaking to conference supporters Lloyds Bank about the importance of the event, organiser and Head of Industrial Technologies and Manufacturing at Innovate UK, Dr. Megan Ronayne said: “One of the main advantages of increasing diversity in manufacturing is that it raises innovation in the sector” and this can help to offset skills gaps and shortages in the workforce.
Whilst the Changing Perceptions conference made it clear that these are long-term issues, that require long-term solutions and investment to overcome, the enthusiasm and ideas generated for the Women in Manufacturing initiative was an inspirational takeaway for attendees.
If you want to learn more about how you can take practical steps to help address these challenges, you can read Dr. Castañeda-Navarrete’s report on ‘The case for a gender-transformative digitalisation’. This policy brief offers practical recommendations for businesses, industry associations, and research and government organisations to promote gender diversity and inclusion within the UK manufacturing sector.
Disruption, digital innovation, new business models… the world of manufacturing is changing rapidly, perhaps faster than ever before. To adapt and survive, businesses must anticipate changes, identify opportunities and make informed decisions.
The InterAct Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems team, one of InterAct’s core research streams, is committed to developing co-created solutions to the challenges facing the UK manufacturing sector in the near future. This team has now put together a vital report that brings you the information you need, at your fingertips, outlining potential future scenarios and the associated opportunities for the manufacturing world.
Discussing the importance of this new work, InterAct Co-director and Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems lead, Professor Jan Godsell said: “The future can often seem distant and subordinate to the problems of today, particularly in the supply chain and manufacturing sectors when it has felt as though we are living in an age of ‘permacrisis’, constantly fighting just to stay on track.
However, if anything, the impacts of conflict, pandemic, supply chain disruption, climate change and labour market shifts have proven the vital importance of considering potential futures, today. That’s why my team has produced this new report, to be used in conjunction with upcoming workshops and case studies to create a framework for businesses to effectively plan for, and mitigate challenges whilst exploiting new technological opportunities.
We’re excited to be working with organisations like Midlands Engine and Make UK on this project, and I look forward to inviting new and existing members of the InterAct Network to join us in co-creating this work.”
The scenarios outlined in the report map out four potential alternatives for the digital manufacturers of tomorrow:
Flexibility as Standard
Happy and Sustainable Workforce
Download the report to find out more about how the most useful measure of sustainable progress is total factor productivity, which accounts for inputs beyond labour – such as materials, energy and administrative time – to compare them against total outputs.
The IET Savoy Place, London hosted the InterAct Network’s second Annual Conference on 3rd October, 2023, bringing together a wide range of industry leaders, policy influencers, and academic experts. The central theme of the conference, “How do we create the digital manufacturing future we want?” provided a catalyst for discussions from 13 expert speakers who came together to deliver their unique insights on the challenges and opportunities for the future of manufacturing.
The conference began with an introduction from InterAct Co-director Professor Jillian MacBryde and ESRC Deputy Director of Impact and Innovation, Melanie Knetsch. Discussing the motivations and philosophy behind funding the InterAct Network, Melanie said: “What became apparent when we were first conceptualising the Made Smarter Challenge, was that this was more than just an R&D challenge. If you’re going to really understand manufacturing and support digital transformation you need to take a step back and understand the businesses, the structures, the people, the management, the training, and the skills involved within that.
“We needed to be able to bring people together who haven’t worked together before and adopt this multi-sector approach. That’s why it has been an absolute pleasure to watch it [InterAct] grow and develop over the last two years as a community has come together.”
The morning session then continued with talks from Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), who kicked off proceedings by offering insights into the future of work, emphasizing the pivotal role of human resources in shaping the workforce of tomorrow.
Ben Armstrong, Executive Director of MIT’s Industrial Performance Center, then delved into the benefits and potential pitfalls of automation, providing an international perspective on the opportunities that lie ahead.
The session then continued to explore InterAct’s core themes: the Future of the Economy, the Future of Work, and the Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems. Expert speakers shared their own unique perspectives on the broader topics, providing the basis for the afternoon discussions. You can watch all the talks here.
Preceding the afternoon session, the final keynote speaker Ved Sen, Head of Business Innovation at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), shared his views on the habits of innovative companies. Charting the different approaches some of the worlds biggest companies take to developing a culture of innovation that fosters ingenuity and market leading thinking.
In the interactive segment of the day, attendees had the opportunity to workshop questions amongst themselves to pose to a panel of experts. The panel, comprising thought leaders from diverse backgrounds, discussed critical themes and issues facing the manufacturing sector.
As the curtains closed on the second InterAct Annual Conference, Professor Janet Godsell expressed gratitude to the speakers, sponsors, and attendees for contributing to a vibrant and collaborative event atmosphere. She reiterated the Network’s commitment to building dialogue and connections, highlighting the proactive role InterAct is taking in bringing stakeholders together through events such as these.
This report presents insights into how manufacturing is perceived, the factors shaping this perception, and how this perception has evolved in the last decade. The findings draw upon a systematic review of academic, grey and policy literature across seven countries: the United Kingdom (the UK), Canada, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States (the US).
The report is the main output of the InterAct-funded project “How to make manufacturing charming again? It is everything, everywhere, all at once”. The aim of the report is to support InterAct research on the future of manufacturing on an international scale by providing insights into attitudes to manufacturing and industrial strategies, and how manufacturing is discussed in other countries, particularly where digital technologies have been adopted.
This research was conducted by Dr. Guendalina Anzolin (IfM, University of Cambridge), Dr. Jennifer Castañeda–Navarrete (IfM, University of Cambridge) and Dr. Dalila Ribaudo (Aston University). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].
The European Union’s (EU) new battery regulations (Regulation 2023/1542 ), introduces many new legislative measures, including specific requirements for battery passports and smart labelling. It marks a significant shift towards enhancing sustainability and transparency within the battery value chain.
These battery regulations are pivotal in advancing the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan. As the UK navigates its post-Brexit landscape, aligning with these regulations is crucial for maintaining trade relations and environmental standards. Recent InterAct funded research provides a comprehensive analysis of the UK’s readiness to adapt to these regulations, offering insights that highlight both opportunities and the challenges ahead.
New regulatory requirements
Under the new rules, there will be enhanced information and ICT system requirements for entities introducing batteries and battery powered products to the market. This applies to any economic operator involved in making batteries available in the EU, whether as separate components like cells, modules and packs, or as part of larger products. It also includes those who change a battery’s intended use or are involved in refurbishing or remanufacturing.
A key feature of the regulation is the mandatory inclusion of a QR Code on all batteries, facilitating the use of ‘smart label’ and ‘battery passport’ functionalities, varying by battery type. While specific operators are obligated to provide this information, in practice, a broader network of stakeholders will likely contribute, creating an integrated, multi-stakeholder ‘battery information ecosystem’. This ecosystem will span the entire value chain and lifecycle of battery products, supporting both passport and smart label functions with information from a diverse array of operators.
The analysis includes results from a nationwide survey, completed by 80 organisations, including 21 large, 28 medium-sized, 23 small enterprises, and eight micro-businesses, also representing a wide spectrum of products and activities across the battery value chain/system.
The findings from the survey were discussed in a roundtable discussion and follow-up interviews, available here, which offer a multi-dimensional perspective on the readiness and concerns of the UK battery sector. This breadth of participation underscores the comprehensiveness of the findings, capturing a wide array of viewpoints and insights from a variety of actors along the value-chain from beginning of life to end of life.
Awareness and attitudes towards regulation
The survey revealed that 63% of organisations were unaware of the new regulations, with this figure rising to 73% among UK-based suppliers to the EU. This lack of awareness is concerning, as it indicates a potential gap in readiness for compliance.
The industrial context of these regulations is complex. While there is optimism about the potential for more sustainable and circular business practices, there are also concerns about the administrative, technical and financial burdens the Battery Passport and Smart Labelling requirement might impose. The majority view these requirements as a significant challenge, with only a minority seeing any substantial benefits.
Information readiness: a critical gap
A significant challenge identified in the survey is information readiness. Many businesses reported inadequate access to crucial data on battery materials and supply chain details. This includes information on recycled material content, hazardous substances and critical raw materials, as well as supply chain transparency for components like battery separators and cell casings.
Only about half of the respondents felt confident in the accuracy and completeness of their records, highlighting a pressing need for improved information sharing and data management systems.
ICT challenges and opportunities
The survey underscored the significant challenges in ICT, data, and workflow requirements for compliance. The responsibility for the Battery Passport primarily lies with the manufacturer, who is required to create and maintain these records for each battery throughout the battery’s lifecycle.
In some cases, other economic operators also have roles to play in maintaining or updating certain information, yet many organisations lack the necessary systems and expertise to collect, create, share and report the required data. However, this also presents an opportunity for innovation in the sector, with the potential for new technologies and systems to streamline these processes.
Implications for UK battery producers and UK policy
More needs to be done to raise awareness and demystify the compliance obligations of UK battery manufacturers and producers. It was felt that the new regulations would dominate the focus of day-to-day business activities for several years.
Other issues raised – such as fragmented industry practices, lack of clear guidelines, and the complexity of supply chains – would benefit from clear policy directions, enhanced data management systems, and increased international and value-chain collaboration, which were seen as critical to overcoming these challenges.
The regulation necessitates a collaborative effort from manufacturers, producers, importers, and distributors of all battery types and is essential for implementing substantial changes in areas such as labelling, end-of-life management, and supply chain due diligence. Additionally, there is a need for establishing incentives that will enable increased collaboration between beginning-of-life and end-of-life operators.